Woof Guide to Popular Music: Levon Helm

The best rock concert I ever went to was something of an accident. Early in 1986, my friend got four tickets to a Crosby, Stills and Nash reunion concert in Orange County, and gave two of them to Jane and I. The concert was scheduled for 8 PM, but we happened to hear on the radio that this group called The Band were going to open, starting at 7 PM or so. I’d heard of the band—”The Weight”, and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” were standards on the stations I listened to—but I didn’t really know anything about them. Still, why get there late? So we were there by 7 PM…and we were enchanted. When I think of that evening, CSN is a footnote, a minor footnote, entirely negligible.

And the king of that stage was Levon Helm, behind his drum kit, turning his head to the side to sing so that we mostly saw his profile. He played and sang with infectious joy.

This is a performance of the song we remember best from that show. We’d never heard it before. And when we heard it, it was even better than this.

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And this is a song Helm recorded a few years before he died that’s become a favorite.

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And my friend? He and his date didn’t hear about the change in program and missed the whole thing.

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